A piercing argument

Baltimore County: Body shops should need parental approval to get under the skin of minors.

May 16, 2001

AS body-piercing for self-adornment gains in popularity, finding fans even among the middle-aged, the practice is coming under greater legislative scrutiny.

In various jurisdictions, that skin trade has been licensed, limited by rigid zoning, restricted to health professionals and even banned.

After health regulation, most of the public attention has focused on requiring minors to get parental consent for these permanent, body-altering procedures.

Baltimore County is the latest to take note, with proposed legislation that makes it a crime to do body-piercing of minors without a parent's written permission. The County Council bill has broad support.

It may appear old-fashioned, or an undue intrusion into family matters, but the measure is basically sound. (There's some dissent because it includes traditional ear-piercing. But that's no cause for amendment.)

If adults want to scar their bodies as decoration, flaunting disfigurement as a fashion statement, they must live with that choice. Children shouldn't be making those decisions -- whether on a whim, under the influence of intoxicants or under peer pressure.

Scars last a lifetime. As one Rosedale body-piercer observed, in support of the age restrictions, "If you pierce a 12-year-old's navel, by the time she's 18, it won't be in the navel. It stretches as they grow."

This measure isn't about parental abdication of responsibility to the state. Parents need the help of the law in this matter. Minors can't legally buy alcohol or cigarettes. Stores and clerks who sell to minors are at fault, not just the parents.

Holding these body shops accountable in dealing with minors is not an unreasonable limitation. In no manner is this bill intended to stick it to them.

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